Apr 182018
 

Our members are participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge for 2018 with the theme People of My Place. Today's entry is from Tessa Keough.

My great grandfather Patrick Keough has always been a bit of a mystery to me. My grandfather Andrew Keough immigrated to the United States and was the only member of his immediate family to do so. His father Patrick corresponded with him but died seven years after Andrew left Plate Cove. My grandfather did not have any photographs of his parents and except for a few stories that my grandfather told my father, most of what I know comes from some records, reading up on the history of Plate Cove and Newfoundland, and a visit to Plate Cove.

Patrick’s story is that of building upon what his father and grandfather provided him in a land that was both rich with resources and difficult for those in out port communities. His grandfather, Andrew Kough (Keough) emigrated from St. Mullin’s, County Carlow, Ireland and arrived in St. John’s, Newfoundland in the early 1800s. What might have started out as a seasonal contract trip for Andrew, became a permanent and successful life as a planter.

Most who arrived from Southeast Ireland at that time were fishermen and farmers – either working for themselves, or arriving as apprentices, contract fishermen, or landless sons with few opportunities at home. Although most started out in St. John’s (Andrew arrived in 1816) – many of the Irish Roman Catholics moved on to the unsettled lands along the coastlines of the Bonavista Peninsula. Andrew went from St. John’s to King’s Cove to Open Hall, and finally settled in Plate Cove in 1829.

The community of Plate Cove is tucked in on the far side of the Bonavista Peninsula, a protected cove in the shape of a plate (hence the name) and one of several small fishing communities that string their way from Bonavista to Southern Bay. Plate Cove is a small community, never over 300 inhabitants. In relation to many other “places” that members of the Society for One-Place Studies study, it has a rather short history of about 250 years.

Andrew and his wife Catherine had ten children, including five sons – Patrick, James, Andrew, John & William – all fishermen, who worked for and with their father, who had become a successful enough planter that he had his own fishing rooms, stages, flakes, and vessels. Upon his retirement, he passed both his fishing interests as well as his property interests to his sons. The next generation of Keoughs remained in Plate Cove. Andrew’s son James and his wife Margaret had fourteen children, including eight sons – Andrew, Patrick, John, Bernard, Daniel, Michael, James, and Thomas – most of whom were fisherman. However, early on Patrick charted a different course for himself.

Patrick opened a general store in Plate Cove that sold staples to the community and fishing supplies to his family members and neighbors. A general store in the community was a boon as most goods and services were a walk or horse & cart ride away during good weather, or a coast hugging boat ride away in the rainy months - to King’s Cove (8 miles) and later to Open Hall (4 miles). During the winter months few trips were made, as both the path and the bay were difficult to traverse.

Patrick and his wife Mary ran the store and my grandfather explained to my father that his father didn’t read very well but was excellent at math. Patrick kept a tally of his customers’ accounts with pictures of the items, the amounts, and a running total. We have come full circle as most stores and restaurants today use codes and icons to ring up their sales!

Patrick was able to provide for his family and the community by running the general store. As a result, my grandfather was not raised to the fisherman’s life as many of his cousins and neighbors were. And that life was quite hard and often dangerous. Patrick’s decision turned out to be a good one as the fishing industry in Newfoundland – so robust in the 19th century - was decimated in the 20th century by overfishing and off-shore fishing by foreign countries. Patrick made sure that his children attended grade school in Open Hall so that they would have more opportunities. My grandfather who left Newfoundland 1916 about a year after his mother died, never returned home but stayed in touch with his father by correspondence as Patrick’s daughters helped him improve his reading and writing skills.

Although my grandfather worked deep in the earth (he worked in the mines as he made his way across the USA) and high in the sky (he was a union steelworker and worked on bridges, dams, and office buildings), neither he nor his father ever worked on the water to earn a living. Generations of Keoughs in Newfoundland, like so many of their fellow countrymen, found an inlet and settled there to raise their families. Neither famous or infamous, Patrick and others like him, are the people who helped make Plate Cove and Newfoundland.

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